Okay, that might be overstating it. But stick with me…
I’ve been mulling over the idea of RSS lately. You see, I love RSS. As soon as I learned what it was I went around proclaiming its usefulness and told everyone who would listen, “this tool will change your life!” And then, the other day, via Twitter, I learned Bloglines is shutting down. All of a sudden I felt very old fashioned. You see, I quit using Bloglines years ago. But when I started teaching RSS classes, Bloglines was about the only group in business. And now, it’s so outdated and unused that the company is focusing energy and resources elsewhere.
I started thinking about my own use of RSS. I haven’t been checking in with Google Reader with anywhere near the same regularity that I had a year ago. Some of that I chalked up to having a baby, but the trend was starting well before Leif entered the scene. I realized I was checking in about once a week and mostly marking all as read. Any new news I was getting was coming from Twitter or Facebook, when I didn’t feel too guilty to check in there.
In fact, I noticed that my use of Google Reader was transitioning the way my use of listservs transitioned about six years ago. And my use of Twitter and Facebook is starting to look like how my early uses of Bloglines looked. Next I noticed that several blogs figured this out some time ago:
Academic Hack ranks it right up there with Subscribe via RSS!
Mashable includes both Facebook and Twitter as well as the traditional RSS and even an option to have the content sent to your email.
Next Big Future suggests Twitter might actually be your favorite News Reader. And they’re futurists, so they know where things are going!
And Read Write Web lists Twitter as a subscription option, too.
All of this lead to a new way (for me) of thinking about how I get information and how I should be consuming it. Which leads to The Plan outlined below. This isn’t going to work for everyone, but I’m going to give it a try for a month or so and see if it sticks.
I’m going to continue using Google Reader for the things I really have to read: friend’s blogs (where if I miss something they’ll be surprised I don’t know), professional publications that don’t have a Twitter feed for Facebook page, and a few other types of things that I don’t need clogging up Twitter such as call for proposal sites that generate 30 or so entries a day.
Twitter and Facebook
Everything else. Anything that I used to subscribe to in blog format will be shifted here. My preference is Twitter, but Facebook will do in a pinch. I say that because a few of my blogs had 15 Twitter feeds because each author listed theirs, but only one Facebook page. What I’m looking for is a way to get the headlines I used to get in my reader, so I’m trying to replicate that in these newer formats.
The Set Up
I went through all of my old reader subscriptions and ruthlessly unsubscribed. If I had any indication I might be interested in continuing on with the content, I added it to Twitter/Facebook if possible. I went from 167 blogs to 74. Just to clarify this change over time, before my maternity leave I subscribed to closer to 450 blogs. I’ve been whittling away for some time.
I subscribed freely to things in Twitter. In the past I’ve added with caution and returned a follow only if it was clear from the bio that we had something in common. Now I’m not going to focus too much on maintaining a lean list. I went from following 735 to 789 folks/organizations. And I suspect I’ll add many more over the next day or two.
Over the next week I’ll be running TweetDeck, keeping the “all friends” tab on the left, and moving accounts to the appropriate list as they pop up. I suspect my lists will mirror my old Google Reader folders (library, edtech, tea, buddhism, funny, local, friends, etc).
The plan is to use the sites in the following way:
- Once a week check into my Reader. I already treat listservs this way, so I’ll just translate that experience to the reader. In email I subscribe to several lists, have filters set up, and on Friday afternoon skim the subjects to see if any are still worth reading. In the old days, by Friday most were old news thanks to my Reader. Now I’ll set aside some time, maybe Wednesday, to read the titles of posts in my Reader in just the same way. I assume the important stuff will be old news thanks to Twitter or Facebook.
- I’ll keep TweetDeck open throughout the day. I’ll pay attention to it when on hold on the phone, when I have a few minutes before a meeting, etc. The plan is to treat TweetDeck as a stream that I can just dip into and scan without guilt if I miss things.
- I’ll set up a group in Facebook for accounts that are pushing out content (mostly pages) that I can look at once a week, maybe when I look at the Reader.
And hopefully this will mean I get more access to relevant information while never again having to check into Google Reader and see that I have 1000+ new things to read.
All of this is a pretty major shift in thinking about how to get information for me. One of the shifts (again, for me) from print culture to electronic was an acceptance that I wouldn’t read everything the way I did before. You miss things online. You read other things instead. Instead of reading through an entire reference book as I might have in previous points in my life, I read several different interpretations of the same entry. Organizing by tags rather than hierarchy means that you might miss entire sections that you’d have to flip past before. This is that, again. Using Twitter to get content means you’ll miss things you’d have to click on “mark as read” in a reader. But I’m guessing it also means you’ll run across more.
It also brings up the idea of a more full personality. With Twitter you get the updates about content as well as what the person is thinking or information about other hobbies and interests. Categorization isn’t clear cut. For example, if I follow Kevin Rose, do I put him in my “tea” category or my “technology” one? And what if I don’t want to read about rock climbing? Overall, though, I think this more full perspective will be an interesting one. The feeds become more about people than organizations, which adds a humanizing layer to the web.
All of this, too, at a point in time when search is changing as well. As always, it’s an exciting time to be in the information field!